We generally think of a helper as an assistant, someone lower in status and probably in abilities. Even knowing that by definition, it simply means “one who helps” (though my dictionary immediately adds “assistant” to help define the word), it’s not a word that conveys a sense of God’s greatness the way we might like.
But the Bible speaks many times of God as our Helper. (Of thirteen occurrences of the word “helper” in the NIV, six refer to God. I’m not even going to try to check all 284 occurrences of “help,” “helped,” or some other form of the word.) He is our Helper in the way a parent helps young children.
There are very few things I can’t do better than a young child. (Duck, Duck, Goose is one, though – I can run OK for a short distance, but they have a distinct advantage when it comes to getting up and sitting down quickly.) I am helping out of a position of greater status and ability, not less.
Of course when I help a child, I’m always asking myself, how much help should I be giving? My parents – especially my mother – refused to help me much so that I would learn on my own. I think she carried it too far, so I try to be somewhat more of a help. But like her, I do want to develop independence in my children, so I don’t want to do too much for them.
God doesn’t have that problem. He knows exactly how much help I need, even if I frequently think I could use a bit more help than He is giving. At least that’s what I’ve been taught, and what I’m willing to believe, even if I can rarely point to anything in particular and say, “There, that was God helping me.” Since there’s nothing I have that did not ultimately come from God, there is nothing I have or can do that does not depend on His help.
That difference between God and us is part of what we mean when we say “holy.” I remember as a child not having the faintest idea what the word meant, although it was part of familiar prayers and hymns. One time a Sunday School teacher asked us what we thought the word meant, and no one could answer. I don’t remember what she said it meant, either, but I’m sure my overall impression of the word was simply that it meant something to do with God.
I suppose that’s not too far off, but it doesn’t explain what it means for God to be holy. In Bible school I learned that its basic meaning is “set apart.” Holy things were set apart for God, and couldn’t be used for ordinary everyday uses. Saying that God is holy is saying that He is set apart from all that He has made – if only by the mere fact that He is the Maker and everything else exists only by His will.
But of course when we say God is holy – or people are holy – we are thinking in a moral sense also. God is set apart from sinners because He is pure and righteous. When people are holy, they also act righteously, like God but unlike so many other people. Not that any of us are perfectly holy, but our Holy Helper (John 14:26) is helping us grow toward holiness.